A juvenile offender who was directly charged in adult criminal court, but whose case is not yet final, is entitled to the benefit of Proposition 57’s elimination of direct filing authority. In 2014, when he was 17 years old, Pineda shot and killed a man. At that time, prosecutors were authorized to file murder charges against a juvenile over the age of 16 directly in a court of criminal jurisdiction. Using this “direct file” procedure, the prosecutor charged Pineda with murder in criminal court. He was convicted of second degree murder with a gun use allegation found true. On appeal, Pineda sought retroactive application of Proposition 57’s abrogation of the direct filing procedures. Held: Conditional reversal. Section 4 of Proposition 57 amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 707 to eliminate former subsection (d), which gave prosecutors authority to directly file charges against certain juvenile defendants in criminal court. Prosecutors are now required to file a petition in juvenile court and then seek judicial approval to transfer the case to criminal court. The general rule is that legislative changes apply only prospectively absent a clear indication that the electorate, or the Legislature, intended otherwise. The text of Proposition 57 is silent on whether its provisions should apply retroactively, but these amendments have the effect of lessening the punishment for crimes committed by juvenile defendants, given the reduced emphasis on punishment in juvenile courts. Thus, it is presumed the voters intended Pineda to benefit from the elimination of the direct filing procedure (In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740) and to afford him a fitness hearing. This is consistent with the voters’ purposes in approving Proposition 57, which included emphasizing rehabilitation in order to reduce recidivism. Agreeing with the remedy set forth in People v. Vela (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 68, the court conditionally reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a fitness hearing.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B267885.PDF